This cookbook has a copyright of 2013. I bought this off of Amazon during the recent Christmas holidays for I think under five bucks. I have never cooked from this cookbook before.
There is a volume one to this cookbook which from what I understand, has recipes that take a lot of prep time. I was looking for recipes that I could get up in the morning and maybe throw together before I head out to work. Though I do understand that to get good flavor and not have slow cooker dishes full of canned and packaged foods, getting up at the crack of dawn to spend 45 minutes prepping food to put in my crockpot sort of completely defeats the purpose of the machine for me. I bought this book in the hopes that it really would be easy-prep.
If you own any America's Test Kitchen cookbooks, you'll find that the general layout of each book is pretty much the same. There are a few pages of introduction. There are several pages explaining how to use your slow cooker; keeping foods safe (it takes about 2 hours in the slow cooker for poultry to reach the safe 140 degree temperature); tips and tricks like add delicate vegetables to the recipe at the end so they don't get mushy. There is also some information about buying a slow cooker and it gives the typical recommendations on brands to buy (or not). While that's great if you buy this book now and are looking to buy a slow cooker (perfect weeding present to buy the cooker and the book to give), five years from now, that part of the book will be worthless. There is a general conversions and equivalent section at the back of the book.
Chapters consist of Appetizers; Soups; Hearty Stews, Curries, and Chilis; Chicken; Steaks, Chops, Ribs and More; Big Roasts and Whole Birds; Pasta and Pasta Sauce; Casseroles; Vegetarian Dinners, Cooking for Two; Easy Sides; and Desserts. Not every recipe has photos but there are quite a few full page photos of dishes. Interspersed through out the book are a few "All About" pages which goes into more detail about products or techniques (different spice blends to have on hand or how to cook pasta in the slow cooker - shape matters). Every recipe has a "why this recipe works" at the start...it's a condensed version of the tests that they did to get the dish to taste good. The end of each recipe has some sort of tip whether it be shopping (how to pick the best whole-grain mustard); a quick prep tip (freezing and defrosting tortillas for the Mexican Lasagna); On The Side (what to serve with the recipe). The recipes are really easy to follow.
No real out there ingredients. But they do occasionally ask for canned and prepackaged stuff (a jar of alfredo sauce for the Tortellini with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce) or a packet of taco seasoning (for the Tex-Mex Meatloaf). There is liberal use of instant tapioca to thicken dishes. I was just happy that recipes didn't call for canned soup, canned mushrooms and canned vegetables all in one dish! There were plenty of recipes that used all fresh ingredients so I didn't mind the thought of using some convenience items now and then. There is a lot of microwaving ingredients together before putting them in the crockpot (like onions, potatoes or the meatloaf mix).
The one thing that is very odd to me about this cookbook is the short cooking times on most of the recipes. That Tex-Mex Meatloaf? Only takes 3-4 hours on low (only 2-3 on high). Smoky Roasted Red Pepper Strata? 3 to 4 hours on low. Pasta Puttanesca with Shrimp? 2 to 3 hours on high. Certainly not dishes I could put in the slow cooker in the morning and then have ready for me when I got home. I mean, I can make my own meatloaf in an hour, so why would I use the slow cooker to make it? I think it's the quick "prep" time which is supposed to be about 15 minutes that is the time saver...but having things done in just a few hours doesn't really help me on weekdays to get dinner on the table right after work. I'd have to make most of these dishes on weekends.
Recipes I'd like to try: Beer and Cheddar Fondue; Spicy Chipotle Chicken and Chickpea Soup; Old Fashioned Beef Oxtail Soup; Creamy Potato, Cheddar, and Ale Soup; Pork Vindaloo; Unstuffed Chicken Cordon Bleu; Rustic Braised Chicken with Mushrooms; Fig-Balsamic Glazed Chicken Drumsticks; Porter-Braised Beef Short Ribs; Game Day Brats and Beer; Penne alla Vodka; Pasta Puttanesca with Shrimp; Tortellini with Creamy Wild Mushroom Sauce; Shredded Pork Ragu; Cheesy Chicken and Frito Casserole; Cheeseburger Pasta Bake; Individual Ricotta, Spinach, and Egg Casseroles; new Mexican Red Pork Chili; Asian-Style Braised Short Ribs; Italian Style Braised Green Beans; Bourbon and Brown Sugar Mashed Sweet Potatoes; Corn Pudding; Fudgy Brownie Wedges; Warm Pineapple and Mango Compote; and Cherry Grunt.